Entrance and Exit (2007)

Entrance and Exit are framing devices for a chamber concert. Entrance is about layers of memory and connections to the past: a story gradually unfolds about an audience member whose mind wanders away from the music and drifts back to another time and place.  Her memories of that other world are influenced by the music she is hearing, and, in turn, the music responds to the journey of her imagination.

Exit is a quick spin through an entire life cycle, foretelling the future of an audience member as a metaphorical journey from birth to death and beyond.

Each piece is scored for actor and five instruments, although the instrumentation differs:

Actor Robert Beseda performing in Exit
Actor Robert Beseda performing in Exit

ENTRANCE (c. 11:00)
Alto flute

EXIT (c. 11:00)
Alto sax
Trumpet in C

Now available on Albany Records: Appendage and Other Stories (TROY 1170) featuring:

Robert Beseda, Cinny Strickland, actors
Rebecca Nussbaum, Elizabeth Ransom, flutes
Taimur Sullivan, saxophone
Judith Saxton, trumpet
Jacqui Carrasco, violin
Sheila Browne, viola
Adele O’Dwyer, cello
Paul Sharpe, bass
Allison Gagnon, Robert Rocco, pianos

more about the recording

In both pieces, the text and music are held together through a complex system of cross-cueing between the actor and musicians.

The texts follow:


This is how it happens:  You make your entrance. I make mine.   I speak.  You listen, and we are here.  You pay close attention, and you hear what I say.   You hear the words.   You hear the sounds. You hear the words and sounds mingling.

They are the same for a moment, then they are different.   You are paying close attention, but later your mind will wander.  Do not be ashamed:  Even then, the sounds and words will be one, even when you are no longer with them.   Your mind will wander.   You may be on a beach, or in a studio, or studying a photograph.  Let me tell you about a photograph, then you can decide.   First, I must ask you:  Did you see her?   There is a woman sitting near you.   She arrived a short time ago.   Did you notice?  I will tell you about her.  She is listening now.   She is paying close attention, but later her mind will wander, and she will feel ashamed.   She will want to listen, but her mind will be too full.   Her mind will wander out the door and into the street, retracing its path through the evening, folding back through the hours, curling down through many years, as if they were just this afternoon.

This afternoon, her mind is on this afternoon.   She arrived at his home, and that is where she is now.  Her mind is there, no longer with us.   It is there, in his home, in his back room, his studio, even as she sits with us and tries to listen. Her mind is there, with him, in his studio.   She is sitting in a chair with high arms, a green chair with cherry legs and arms.   She is sitting with one foot folded under her, slightly sideways.   He has given her a book.   She is sitting with one folded leg, one leg extended, the book resting in her lap, open to the page he has given her.   He is standing before her, studying her.   He is studying her through a lens.   She is there in the lens, one foot folded beneath, hair tumbling, but he can’t see her face.   She is looking down.

She is looking down at the book.   She is reading the passage he has given her.   She is reading a story of a man and a woman lying side by side beside the sea.   She is reading.   The man and woman lie side by side in the late afternoon.   The tide is low, the waves are barely breaking, rolling generously in and folding under.   They lie side by side, the man on his back, the woman on her stomach.   They are awake, but they are silent.   They are listening.   Their minds are wandering.

The man lifts himself to one elbow, one elbow in the sand.   He looks out to the sea.   The waves are green.   They are rolling helplessly over themselves.   They are rolling slightly sideways.   He is watching them.   He is studying them, propped on one elbow.   He is paying close attention.   They are rolling amiably in and curling beneath, rolling over and bending down.   They are the same for a moment, then they are different.   He has propped himself on one elbow.   Now his mind is wandering.   He looks down at the woman.   She is lying on her stomach beside him.   She is awake.   She is silent.   She is listening closely.   Her shoulder is rolling generously in and folding underneath.   He is watching as the white stripe on her shoulder rolls helplessly over itself, slightly sideways, curling below.

His mind stops wandering.   He lowers himself slowly and presses his lips to the white stripe on her rolling shoulder, and at that moment they are the same:  the lips, the stripe, the couple on the beach, the woman in the studio.   At that moment she looks up from the book.  She looks up at the camera.   At that moment her eyes pierce the lens.   He presses the shutter.   It opens, and in that moment her eyes are inside the camera.   She has entered the camera.   She is folded over, flipped upside down, slightly sideways, pressed against the film.   Her eyes are pressing into the film.   The film is reading her, flipped upside down, slightly sideways, hair tumbling.   This is how it happens:  the film stops wandering.   It is reading her.   She is reaching down from a gray chair, one leg curling above, an open book hanging from her lap, an empty beach with a man and woman suspended lip to stripe.

And now she is here.  You can hear her, all around.  You can hold the photograph in your hands.  If you hold it long enough, lost in the questioning curve of her brow, the corners will grow bent and crumble.   I know this is true.  And though the image is not so clear as it was many years ago, those gray waves are yours.   That white stripe is yours.   The book is yours.   Your mind is free now, to wander.


All right, all right, all right, we haven’t got much time, we haven’t got much time, so here’s the plan.  As soon as the music’s over, we’re going to get up and head for the exit signs, we’re going to get up, maybe slap our hands together a few times, then we’ll head for the exit signs.  When we get outside the doors, we’re going to look around.  I mean really look around, like we’re not sure what we’re going to find.  Like, for all we know there might be nothing there, there might be nothing outside the exit signs, just an infinite void, just a few blinking lights, just God with a broom and a dustpan!  You never know!  Maybe we are the last things, maybe what’s inside this room is all there is!   Okay, it’s not likely, but you can’t tell until you look for yourselves.  So, I want you to go out there, take a good look around, make sure the universe is still right where you left it.  Make sure it hasn’t been closed down for renovation.  That’s very important, don’t you think?  What would you do if the universe got moved to another location?  Or exchanged with another universe you’ve never even seen before?  So let’s make sure it’s the right one, the same universe we’ve been drifting through these last billion years. Drift, drift, drift, that’s all you do.  But that’s not what we’re going to do now.  We’re going to go outside.  I want you to cut through the parking lot.  On the way through the parking lot, I want you to slap the hood of every single car, see how many alarms you can set off, see if you can get fifteen different cars of fifteen different colors all screaming at each other!  Then you’ll be ready to head for the street — not the middle of the street, you might get run over — let’s try to walk right on the curb.  The gutter — one foot in the gutter, one foot up no the curb, clip-clop, clip-clop.  I want you to take a close look at the gutter, you never know what you might find, you might see things there you’ve never seen before, like maybe a candy wrapper, a Baby Ruth candy wrapper, you pick it up and suddenly you remember when you came home from school and your Aunt Charlotte had died, and everyone’s face was gray as they lined up to get in the car, and you know what?  It’s okay, you know how beautifully you’ve been designed, but you weren’t built to last, it’s okay, pick up the candy wrapper and look at it closely, study it, you can dispose of it later of course, we want to save the earth and all, but right now, look at it!   But you’ve seen thousands of candy wrappers before, right?  Wrong! Those others were others, I don’t believe they ever really existed, and I promise you you’ve never seen one exactly like this one before, with the little bitty corner torn off over here, and a little bitty leaf smudge over on the side.   Look at it!   Read the cute little words, read them! “Baby Ruth.” Just think, a moment later, a little breeze might have blown up and taken this wrapper and plastered it into a bird’s nest, and fifteen little peeping chicks would be born and it would never in a million years occur to them to read the words “Baby Ruth” in the wallpaper of their own home, just as you’ve been missing the writing all over your universe for a billion years!   Read the words: “Glendale, California; Vitamin C content: zero.“ Now that wasn’t so hard, was it?  Turn it over; on the other side it says, “You may already be a prizewinner — and you look up and there’s someone standing there you’ve never seen before, or maybe seen once or twice, and you fall madly in love with this person — you know it’s love because your knees are spinning off into orbit and the base of your spine is chocolate pudding and your heart is fluttering like a spastic trampoline. You know you’ve felt this before, AND you know how to hide it, but don’t hide it this time, this time tell this person how you really feel, say you can’t go on any longer, get down on your knees and ask this person to marry you right then and there, to have kids with you, or to adopt kids; adopt fifteen kids of fifteen different colors!   Sure it would be tough, but you’re up to it, you can take a challenge, and just imagine the beautiful music of fifteen different languages around the dinner table!   Fifteen kids screaming and hollering in different languages, and you turn to the person who is the love of your life, you turn to them again, and you turn to them again, and you turn to them again, and maybe you’re not quite so delirious about one another as when you met, but that’s okay, love develops, love grows, love evolves, that’s okay, it doesn’t stay the same, if it did, it wouldn’t be nearly so precious.  And you climb the stairs to your room, you climb the stairs every night for years and years, miles and miles of climbing, and one night you open you dresser drawer and you find a candy wrapper crumpled behind your socks, with the corner torn off just so, like an old poem that lets your memory brim with the love you no longer feel, isn’t it wonderful?   And you can do a little dance around your bedroom, why not?  You don’t need to take a pill in order to act like an idiot!  This kind of thing is in your nature, it’s your birthright, it’s your destiny:  do a little dance around your bedroom: here, lift up your left foot and touch it with your right hand, lift up your right foot and touch it with your left hand, and then your weary old heart collapses, and you find yourself – studying — the carpet — really — closely, and an ambulance comes and the neighbors stand in their windows and murmur to one another, shaking their heads. And in the next few days, fifteen men and women come to clean up your room, they study your bank accounts, they split up your socks among them, they ship off the furniture, they pick up a candy wrapper, without thinking, the secret of your life in a little crumpled ball, they toss it into a Hefty trash bag.  And later they’ll sit around trying to describe your silly little smile, your love for live music, the couple on the beach, the woman in the studio, the kiss on the shoulder, lip to stripe, in fifteen different languages, and maybe, just maybe, in a quiet moment, they’ll feel the floor quivering with your final dancing steps, and what more could you possibly want?  You are already a prizewinner.

But we’re running out of time now, so remember, when the music’s over, head for the exits, step out into the street, see everything closely, intimately, like it’s the first thing you’ve ever seen, like it’s the last thing you’ll ever see, because you never know, you never know, you never know what lies outside the exit signs!

ORDER Entrance and/or Exit: